Beyond the Cup: 27 Surprising Uses for Coffee Grounds and Coffee

Five teaspoons of coffee grounds in different stages of the roasting process.
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If you can’t make it through the day without a morning (and an afternoon) caffeine fix, you’re not alone. The National Coffee Association says 66% of Americans, or seven out of 10, wake up to a cup ’o joe daily. Whether you drink drip coffee at home or fancy lattes from the local coffee shop, caffeine tops the list as everyone’s favorite beverage.

You’ve probably seen studies about the health benefits of coffee’s antioxidants, but did you know coffee (and specifically coffee grounds) can be useful in other areas of daily life? From buffing furniture to pest control, coffee has some secret superpowers that should make you think twice about dumping those grounds into the trash.

27 Uses for Coffee Grounds & Coffee That Go Beyond the Cup

Many of the applications for coffee that don’t involve guzzling it (no judgment) rely on a byproduct of your morning caffeine fix — coffee grounds. If you’d like more grounds than your coffeemaker can provide, consider swinging by your local coffee shop and asking for their used coffee grounds. They usually hand out the day’s leftover grounds for free.

Here are 27 uses for coffee grounds and coffee.

  1. Meat rub and tenderizer
  2. Chili companion
  3. Chocolate cake enhancer
  4. Secret sauce
  5. Compost and fertilizer
  6. Pest control
  7. Flower food
  8. Growing mushrooms
  9. Hand, foot and body scrub
  10. Hand cleaner
  11. Hair conditioner
  12. Treatment for dark circles under eyes
  13. Reduce the appearance of cellulite
  14. Traction on ice
  15. Bug repellant
  16. Roach trap
  17. Deodorizer
  18. Kitchen scrubber
  19. Fireplace helper
  20. Wood stain
  21. Furniture repair
  22. Air freshener
  23. Flea remover
  24. Fabric dye
  25. Pincushion filler
  26. Painting and antiquing treatment
  27. Beer brewing

Using Coffee in the Kitchen

Coffee’s unique combination of acidity and flavor helps it bring a lot to the table both in and out of the kitchen.

1. Meat Rub and Tenderizer

Use fresh coffee grounds as a dry rub or a marinade to enhance the flavor of meat, especially steaks and ribs. The acidity and enzymes in the coffee double as a tenderizer for tougher cuts, both softening and providing a more robust taste profile to seared, grilled and roasted meats.

2. Chili Companion

Many chili cook-off winners swear by a handful of ground coffee to bring out the savory profile of chili. Try this award-winning recipe that combines both coffee and bourbon for a smoky chili base.

3. Chocolate Cake Enhancer

Some bakers insist a splash of coffee or espresso or a teaspoon of instant coffee is the secret ingredient to the best chocolate cakes. Paired with chocolate and other sweet desserts, it’s hard to beat the rich undertones coffee brings to the palate.

4. Secret Sauce

Not to be cliche, but coffee is literally the secret sauce to … well, sauces. From barbecue sauces to drizzles for desserts, coffee’s earthy notes bring out the best in sauces without distracting from the main dish. Red-eye gravy anyone?

A woman uses used coffee grounds as fertilizer for an indoor houseplant.
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Gardening With Coffee and Coffee Grounds

One of the main uses for used coffee grounds is compost, but if you haven’t tried it around the garden in other ways, you’re missing out on what coffee’s green thumb provides.

5. Compost and Fertilizer

Many gardeners save spent coffee grounds to use both as compost and fertilizer. This is because coffee not only can help with PH levels in the soil, but lures in worms that provide nitrogen. Coffee grounds are especially good at nurturing carrots and fast-growing plants.

6. Pest Control

Most yards are in a constant battle with pests of one variety or another. The strong smell of damp coffee grounds is a good deterrent for ants, slugs, snails and even pests of the four-footed variety like cats. If you discover particular plants are attracting pests, simply sprinkle coffee grounds at the base.

7. Flower Food

Some flowers, like roses, appreciate lots of organic matter to break down so coffee grounds can help blooms thrive when used in moderation. Just take care when and how much dried coffee grounds you use. Too much nitrogen applied directly to the soil of some plants can burn the roots.

8. Growing Mushrooms

Mushrooms are notoriously difficult to grow and require a special kind of soil called substrate. Fortunately, used coffee grounds make an ideal substrate for growing and fertilizing fungi, including flavorful shiitake and oyster mushrooms.

Health and Beauty Uses for Coffee

Slather it on as a scrub or leverage its antioxidant properties to fight signs of aging. However you use it, coffee is a popular ingredient in many health and beauty products.

9. Hand, Foot and Body Scrub

As a common ingredient in bath and body scrubs, ground coffee is ideal for exfoliation. You can make your own coffee scrubs at home by combining used coffee grounds with some coconut or olive oil and a pinch of citrus zest or essential oil. Keep it in your shower so you can slough off the dead skin cells and enjoy the steamy smell of caffeine.

10. Hand Cleaner

Some smells are difficult to mask, such as the pungent lingerings of garlic or onions after you’ve been chopping during meal prep. Use leftover coffee grounds to scrub off the stink and leave your hands smelling soothingly fragrant and a little softer.

11. Hair Conditioner

The thought of dumping coffee grounds on your own head might sound crazy, but the oils in coffee not only provide extra shine but also stimulate circulation and potentially hair growth. A word of warning to blondes, however. Coffee grounds can temporarily darken light hair a smidge, so use them with caution.

A woman uses coffee grounds as an under eye treatment.
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12. Under-Eye Treatment

If you’ve refreshed that coffee cup well into the afternoon lately, you might also benefit from applying a little of the morning’s coffee grounds under your eyes. Delicate blood vessels, swelling and fatigue can cause dark circles and puffy eyes, but applying a coffee treatment under the eyes tightens the skin and increases circulation.

13. Reduce the Appearance of Cellulite

While the dips and divots of cellulite are natural, the beauty industry has convinced consumers to spend millions every year fighting it. However, one of the rumored cures for cellulite is sitting right in your kitchen. Mixing coffee grounds and oil and applying it to problem areas twice weekly may help temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Using Coffee and Coffee Grounds Outside

If you want to get more out of your coffee, take it outside with these applications that make the most of our favorite morning companion.

14. Traction on Ice

Run out of rock salt for your walk or the trunk of your car? Sprinkle used coffee grounds from your morning brew instead. Coffee grounds work to provide traction on icy walks and are easier on plants, paws and your budget.

15. Bug Repellent

Coffee is a deterrent for many gardening pests, but the strong smell is also not a favorite of other types of insects like mosquitoes, fruit flies and even beetles. While you probably don’t want to slather yourself in coffee grounds for a few hours, using some coffee-scented oils might help drive away bugs. Some people even burn coffee grounds as insect repellent.

16. Roach Trap

Cockroaches always defy our expectations and their attraction to coffee is no exception. They seem to love a caffeine fix as much as the next human, so use it to your advantage. Grab some glass jars and use these instructions to fashion a coffee hotel that roaches will check into but never leave.

Cleaning With Coffee and Coffee Grounds

In the kitchen or the bathroom, adding coffee grounds gets the job done. This caffeine powerhouse deodorizes, scours, and cleans without harsh chemicals.

17. Deodorizer

Like its better-known pantry companion baking soda, coffee grounds are a natural deodorizer. Put a few small bowls out and the coffee will soak up other smells both in your fridge, under the sink and even in the garbage disposal. Or you can make small satchels of ground coffee and use them in stinky shoes or gym bags.

18. Kitchen Scrubber

Put the abrasiveness of coffee grounds to the test on your hard-to-clean grout, tiles and other kitchen surfaces. Coffee is particularly adept at banishing soap scum and food film, so don’t hesitate to use it to clean your pots and pans to a spic-n-span shine. But take care to use the grounds from your coffee filter on non-porous surfaces to avoid staining.

19. Fireplace Helper

One of the trickiest parts of cleaning a fireplace is watching all your hard work go up in smoke when the ashes get stirred up and form dust clouds. Instead, sprinkle some coffee grounds around to weigh down the ashes and make them easier to sweep up.

Using Coffee Around the House

Get your caffeine fix around the house by using coffee grounds and coffee to do minor repairs and rehab from staining wood to buffing furniture.

20. Wood Stain

For the same reason that coffee can stain your hair and porous surfaces, it can also be a great, all-natural ingredient for a gentle wood stain. Gather a little steel wool, mix coffee grounds with vinegar and follow these steps to give a gentle, burnished glow to unfinished wood.

21. Furniture Repair

Scratched and scuffed furniture can look unsightly, but buffing away marks on dark wood furniture just takes a little elbow grease and a coffee rub. The exfoliating properties of coffee work well on wood and the natural oils left behind in the grounds give a little moisture to buff out furniture flaws.

Get more tips on furniture rehab in our guide on turning garage sale trash into resale treasure.

22. Air Freshener

Do you walk through the coffee aisle at the grocery store with your eyes closed, breathing deep and savoring the smell? As bizarre as it sounds, you can recreate that experience at home using ground coffee and old socks as a natural air freshener. Not into creating coffee sachets? That’s OK. Melt some wax and sprinkle coffee beans in it to create your own coffee-scented candles.

Random Uses for Coffee Grounds and Coffee

23. Flea Remover

Removing a flea infestation usually takes some harsh chemicals and strips your pet’s coat of its natural oils. Enter coffee grounds as a viable alternative for flea removal. Simply combine with oil and use it as a scrub and the abrasive action will remove those pesky critters and leave behind a shiny coat. Just be sure to rinse well and never ever let your canine companions consume coffee or coffee grounds as they can be toxic.

24. Fabric Dye

Coffee can dye your hair and stain wood, so why not fabrics? A mixture of coffee grounds and water can gently dye fabric, but be sure to do this by hand and not in your washing machine. Your laundry won’t appreciate the coffee residue and it could clog the tub drains.

25. Pincushion Filler

Know someone who loves coffee and sewing? Craft a coffee pincushion as a gift. Fill a pin cushion with coffee grounds and they’ll get the fragrant smell of their favorite thing every time they stick a pin in it.

26. Paint and Antiquing Treatment

Using liquid coffee or coffee grounds mixed with water can create a subtle tan or brown color perfect for watercolor painting and other applications. For crafty coffee drinkers, applying coffee to paper and other surfaces creates a coveted antique look that’s timeless.

27. Beer Brewing

Homemade and professional brewers alike know coffee is the perfect companion for stouts and porters. Adding a little java introduces complexity, especially to dark beers that are in danger of tasting one-dimensional. Brewers suggest either introducing fresh coffee to the brew or steeping it in bags of ground coffee for several days.

Coffee drinkers looking to offset the indulgence of their caffeine addiction have many ways to ensure their morning cup ’o joe pulls double duty around the house. The caffeine fixes above — from furniture repair to gardening compost — ensure that java’s liquid gold doesn’t go to waste.

Kaz Weida is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.